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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

One Bike One: Political Tools

The One Bike One Rally, which I have blogged on extensively, has been getting lots of press this week as the government pushes to maximize exposure for incumbent Ma Ying-jiu.

Ma, who has vowed to drop out of the race if he or his party uses the state apparatus to promote his election campaign, has already been accused of leveraging state power against his opponents during this election and this event appears to raise more questions about the intentions behind such a rally.

Organized to mark the centennial of the Republic of China, the "One Bike One" tour has so far attracted the registration of more than 110,000 cyclists, organizers said at a press conference in Taipei to promote the tour.

"This event heralds the arrival of the next century in Taiwan as an energy-saving one with a focus on healthy lifestyle options,"said Ovid Tzeng, minister for the Council for Cultural Affairs.
Despite the motives listed above, the event leans heavily on images and symbolism often regarded to be emblematic of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). Yes, even the ROC flag is regarded by a large number of Taiwanese to be a partisan KMT symbol.

OneBikeOne 轉動臺灣向前行 not only conflates Taiwan's experience into the construct of the Chinese Nationalist belief in a Greater Chinese epoch centering around the foundation of the Republic of China in 1911 when Taiwan was a Japanese colony, but the clever use of the bicycle also plays on the name of the incumbent candidate Ma Ying-jiu for the shared character for "horse" (馬)

More than 7,000 riders have registered to set off from Taipei's Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, which will be the largest departure point, said organizers, calling on interested bikers who have not registered to still join in the event.
It is also interesting to see that Chiang Kai-sheck Memorial Hall was chosen as the centerpiece of this event. The CKS hall was commissioned a year after the late dictator's death. For many in the KMT, the Chiang cult of personality is still a binding force despite his opposition to democratic rule and his notoriously bloody rule in both China and Taiwan. Chiang is a recognized symbol of authoritarianism in most parts of Taiwan, but worshipped by many KMT party heads who owe their wealth and careers to the Chiang family.
Bikers with smartphones can check in by downloading an app from the event's website and activating their app to start a GPS track, which will be recorded on the website's homepage.

Those without smartphones can send text messages to a designated number, after which their signals will be tracked.
With the latest allegations of security agents spying on the opposition, I simply found the idea of tracking riders apropos for signaling the lengths this government will go to influence the coming election.

If you decide to attend One Bike One, understand that your attendance will likely be politicized.

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